Canadian Protected Areas Status Report 2012 to 2015: chapter 4


Chapter 4: Indigenous Peoples and Stakeholder Involvement

Indigenous Peoples, local communities and other relevant stakeholders play an important role in protected areas. The successful implementation of conservation initiatives including the establishment of protected areas is directly linked to the involvement of those who have connections to these areas whether these stem from cultural, traditional and spiritual values or whether they are socio-economically based. On the world stage, the formal recognition of Indigenous People and key stakeholders in the planning and management of protected areas is fairly recent given it was only about 30 years ago that leading conservation organisations such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature developed principles and guidelines to guide conservation authorities on how best to involve them into protected area decision-making processesFootnote1. In Canada, the development of partnerships with Indigenous Peoples and with relevant stakeholders to find durable solutions for protecting Canada’s biodiversity and creating protected areas across the country is an integral part of protected area establishment.

Indigenous participation in protected areas

Indigenous Peoples have an important role in the conservation of Canada’s ecosystems and biodiversity. This was recently reflected in Canada’s 2020 biodiversity goals and targets, which emphasize the importance of maintaining customary use of biological resources by Indigenous Peoples and the importance of traditional knowledge in biodiversity conservation (see below). Through modern land claims, treaties and other types of agreements, Indigenous Peoples have had an increased level of participation in the decision-making processes related to protected areas. As stewards of the land with a deep understanding of the landscape, Indigenous communities often play a key role in identifying candidate sites, delineating boundaries, determining conservation objectives and defining management approaches for protected areas.

Indigenous Peoples & Canada's 2020 Biodiversity Targets

Target 12 - By 2020, customary use by Indigenous Peoples of biological resources is maintained, compatible with their conservation and sustainable use.

Target 15. By 2020, Indigenous traditional knowledge is respected, promoted and, where made available by Indigenous Peoples, regularly, meaningfully and effectively informing biodiversity conservation and management decision-making

Establishment and management of protected areas

Whether through consultations or collaborative agreements, all organisations responsible for protected areas have mechanisms in place for involving Indigenous Peoples in the establishment and management of both marine and terrestrial protected areas.

For terrestrial protected areas:

  • Fourteen out of 15 organisations reporting on terrestrial protected areas (93%) reported that Indigenous governments, communities or organisations were formally involved in terrestrial protected areas design, planning and establishment, while 13 out of 15 (87%) indicated a formal involvement in protected areas management.
  • Eight out of 15 (53%) organisations reported that involvement of Indigenous Peoples in the design, planning and establishment of protected areas resulted from processes related to modern land claims, treaties and other agreements, 10 out of 15 (67%) reported that it was mandated by law, and 12 out of 15 (80%) reported that it was mandated through policy.
  • Eight out of 15 (53%) organisations reported that involvement of Indigenous Peoples in the management of protected areas was mandated by law and 11 out of 15 reported that it was mandated through policy. For 10 out of 15 organisations (67%) reporting, this mandate came from the management plans of specific protected areas.

A variety of mechanisms exist through which Indigenous governments, communities or organisations are involved in the design, planning and establishment as well as the management of terrestrial protected areas. These include:

  • Specific consultations with Indigenous Peoples (reported by 14 out of 15, or 93% of organisations).
  • Public consultations (reported by 11 out of 15, or 73% of organisations).
  • Involvement in land-use planning (reported by 10 out of 15, or 67% of organisations).
  • Involvement in advisory bodies (e.g. Wildlife Management Boards, etc.) (reported by 10 out of 15, or 67% of organisations).
  • Processes related to modern land claims, treaties and other agreements (reported by eight out of 15, or 53% of organisations).

More specifically, with respect to the management of terrestrial protected areas:

  • Four organisations reported that Indigenous groups were fully managing certain protected areas (British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Prince Edward Island and Quebec). In the case of Quebec, this was the case for all parks located in Nunavik. In Prince Edward Island, a specific agreement was made between the province and the Native Council of Prince Edward Island for the Native Council to own a portion of one Wildlife Management Area. This was not part of any land claim settlement.
  • Six reported that co-management/cooperative management regimes were in place (British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Parks Canada). This included, for example, four protected areas established under the various Inuit Impact and Benefits Agreements in Nunavut as well as under land claim agreements in the Northwest Territories.

Protected areas organisations also specified additional mechanisms including the establishment of working groups (Ontario), memoranda of agreement (Manitoba), the tri-partite Mi'kmaq-federal-provincial forum (Nova Scotia), reconciliation agreements and strategic engagement agreements (British Columbia) and an Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreement (Nunavut and Parks Canada).

For marine protected areas:

  • Seven out of nine organisations reporting on marine protected areas (67%) indicated that Indigenous governments, communities or organisations were formally involved in marine protected areas design, planning and establishment as well as management. All of these indicated that specific consultations with Indigenous Peoples were undertaken during the design, planning and establishment phases, while four undertook specific consultations with Indigenous Peoples as part of the management of marine protected areas.
  • Six out of nine (67%) reported that involvement of Indigenous Peoples in design, planning and establishment was mandated by law and seven out of nine (78%) reported that it was mandated through policy. For five out of nine (56%) reporting, such mandates came from both law and policy.
  • With respect to the involvement of Indigenous Peoples in protected areas management, three organisations (33%) reported that this was mandated in law (Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Parks Canada), and four organisations (44%), which included the three federal organisations, reported that it was mandated through policy.
  • Four out of nine (44%) reported that involvement of Indigenous Peoples in marine protected area management came from the management plans for specific marine protected areas.

Examples of mechanisms to engage Indigenous Peoples indicated by organisations reporting on marine protected areas include:

  • Public consultation during design, planning and establishment (reported by five out of nine, or 56% of organisations), and as part of the management of marine protected areas (reported by three out of nine, or 33% of organisations)
  • Advisory bodies (e.g. Wildlife Management Boards, etc.) during design, planning and establishment (reported by four out of nine, or 44% of organisations); six out of nine organisations (67%) reported that advisory bodies were a mechanism for engagement in the management of marine protected areas.
  • Three out of nine organisations (33%) reported that involvement of Indigenous Peoples in the design, planning and establishment of marine protected areas stemmed from modern land claims processes. Four out of nine organisations (44%) reported that involvement of Indigenous Peoples occurred through treaties and other agreements and three of these four organisations also reported that involvement of Indigenous Peoples was associated with land-use planning processes.
  • More specifically, with respect to marine protected areas management, four out of nine organisations (44%) reported that co-management/cooperative management regimes were in place.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is an example of a jurisdiction where a variety of management mechanisms are used; one of these is management via regional governance bodies in relation to Integrated Oceans Management. Other mechanisms include cooperative arrangements such as that seen in the Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area, which is based on cooperative management between Fisheries and Oceans Canada, co-management partners, and the Inuvialuit. Similarly, Fisheries and Ocean Canada is collaborating with local Inuvialuit communities, the relevant Inuvialuit organizations, and bodies under the land claims agreement, for the proposed Anguniaqvia niqiqyuam Marine Protected Area.

Specific designations for Indigenous protected areas

Specific designations for Indigenous protected areas exists in only two provinces: British Columbia and Manitoba.

In British Columbia, conservancies are a type of designation, under the Park Act, that explicitly recognize the importance of Crown lands to First Nations for social, ceremonial and cultural uses as one of its principal purposes, along with biodiversity conservation and provision of outdoor recreation opportunities.

In Manitoba, a provincial park may be classified as an Indigenous Traditional Use Park if the main purpose of the designation is to preserve lands that have been traditionally used by Indigenous Peoples or that are significant to Indigenous Peoples due to their natural features or cultural importance. A new land use category was also created wherein lands within a provincial park may be designated under the Indigenous Heritage Land Use Category if the main purpose of the categorization is to protect a unique or representative site containing a resource of cultural, spiritual or heritage significance to Indigenous People.

Manitoba can also designate protected areas under the The East Side Traditional Lands Planning and Special Protected Areas Act. The purpose of this Act is:

(a) to enable First Nations and aboriginal communities on the east side of Lake Winnipeg to engage in land use and resource management planning for designated areas of Crown land that they have traditionally used; and

(b) to provide designated areas of Crown land on the east side of Lake Winnipeg with special protection from development and other activities that might occur on that land.

Sites of cultural importance

Protected areas are not only important for the protection of ecosystems and wildlife habitat but also for the protection of sites of cultural importance. This is especially the case for Indigenous People across Canada with many of the existing protected areas holding special natural features that have great meaning and importance and that have contributed to cultural preservation. Sites of cultural importance can include areas where traditional land use practices have taken and continue to take place, as well as areas that hold important spiritual value.

For terrestrial protected areas:

  • Eleven out of 15 organisations reporting on terrestrial protected areas (73%) indicated that sites of cultural importance to Indigenous communities were identified through their terrestrial protected areas strategy/planning.
  • Twelve out of 15 (80%) reported that sites of cultural importance to Indigenous communities were protected through the establishment of terrestrial protected areas.

Sites of cultural importance have been identified and protected across the country. These include sites such as Writing-on-stone/Aisinai’pi Provincial Park, Alberta, which protects the largest concentration of First Nation petroglyphs and pictographs on the great plains of North America. Writing-on-Stone/Aisinai’pi Provincial Park was added to Canada’s Tentative List for consideration as World Heritage Site designation. At the end of 2015, a nomination package was under development for submission to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In Manitoba, areas of cultural value that received protection over the reporting period include Chitek Lake Anishinaabe Provincial Park, the first park to be designated under the new Indigenous Traditional Use park classification; Little Grand Rapids First Nation Traditional Use Planning Area, and Pauingassis First Nation Traditional use Planning Area; and Brokenhead Wetland Ecological Reserve was expanded and construction began on the interpretive trail for the promotion of the site’s cultural and ecological values.

Nova Scotia also has several provincial parks that have been identified as being of cultural importance including the recently established Kluscap Wilderness Area, and the Tobeatic Wilderness Area, which was expanded in 2015, and several smaller wilderness areas and nature reserves.

In British Columbia, Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (a.k.a. Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park) offers visitors a chance to explore many unique and interesting features of a volcanic landscape and to learn about the culture and legends of the Nisga’a people.

At the federal level, Parks Canada offers various examples of archeological sites as well as areas of present and historic land use. One of these is the Nááts'ihch'oh National Park Reserve, established in 2014 in Yukon, which protects the important cultural and spiritual values of the Nááts'ihch'oh mountain.

  • Thirteen out of 15 organisations (87%) indicated that sites of cultural importance to Indigenous communities were also protected through legislation other than protected area legislation in their jurisdiction.
  • Eight out of 15 (53%) reported that protected areas legislation or policy enables the customary use of biological resources in all of their protected areas, six out of 15 reported that customary use of biological resources is enabled in some of their protected areas, and one organisation reported that it is enabled in protected areas where treaties have been signed.

The specific allowances for the customary use of biological resources vary by jurisdiction and by type of protected area. For example, hunting and trapping are not allowed in all southern provincial national parks of Quebec, but fishing and gathering are in certain areas. However, in parks located in the James Bay area only, which is covered by the Act respecting hunting and fishing rights in the James Bay and new Quebec territories (chapter D-13.1), beneficiaries of the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement are permitted to continue traditional activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering.

For marine protected areas:

  • Five out of nine organisations reporting on marine protected areas (56%) reported that sites of cultural importance to Indigenous communities were identified through their marine protected areas strategy/planning.
  • Four out of nine (44%) reported that sites of cultural importance to Indigenous communities were protected through the establishment of marine protected areas.

While Fisheries and Oceans Canada is included above in the number of organisations that protect sites of cultural importance through the establishment of marine protected areas, it should be noted that the legislation used by this jurisdiction, the Oceans Act; 1996, does not provide for the protection of sites of cultural importance to Indigenous communities, thus it cannot protect cultural sites specifically for that purpose. However, the prohibition of activities within a geographic area, with the aim of achieving Marine Protected Area conservation objectives, may result in indirect protection of Indigenous cultural sites.

British Columbia’s Protected Areas Strategy includes sites of cultural heritage significance, including First Nation’s cultural heritage as a criterion for identifying candidate protected areas. Thus, a significant number of the protected areas in this jurisdiction contain sites of cultural importance. A number of conservancies, designated as a result of government-to-government land use agreements with First Nations, were specifically advanced by First Nations to protect culturally important sites and landscapes. While many of these culturally significant sites may be referred to in public information, such as management plans, the precise nature of the cultural significance or location of the site is often kept confidential at the request of the First Nation.

  • Six out of nine marine protected area organisations (67%) reported that sites of cultural importance to Indigenous communities were protected through legislation other than protected area legislation.
  • Seven out of nine (78%) indicated that their protected areas legislation or policy enables the customary use of biological resources (e.g. fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering) by people within all of their marine protected areas.

In areas of the ocean where there is an overlap between a Marine Protected Area established by Fisheries and Oceans Canada and an existing food, social and ceremonial fishery, this fishery will continue to take place within the marine protected area provided that conservation objectives will not be compromised. In Parks Canada protected areas, traditional harvesting rights are respected. In protected areas under the jurisdiction of British Columbia, traditional rights including fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering continue to be exercised, subject to public safety and conservation considerations.

Agreements that provide Indigenous economic and social benefit

Formal impact, benefit, and co-management agreements now provide the framework for collaboration between Indigenous Peoples and federal, provincial and territorial governments. These agreements create a formal mechanism for ensuring that benefits arising from the creation of protected areas are shared with Indigenous Peoples, new opportunities are created, and responsibility for protected areas management is distributed appropriately.

For terrestrial protected areas:

  • Ten out of 15 organisations reporting on terrestrial protected areas (67%) reported that agreements to ensure that Indigenous communities derive economic and social benefits from protected areas located near, adjacent to or surrounding their communities were in place for some of their protected areas.
  • Out of these, one territorial organisation (Nunavut) reported that agreements were in place for all of their protected areas. In addition, for all federal protected areas located in settlement areas, agreements such impact and benefit agreements were also in place (Environment and Climate Change Canada and Parks Canada).
  • Three out of 15 (20%) indicated that agreements were not in place for any of their protected areas.

In British Columbia, for example, certain North and Central Coast First Nations have enhanced access to economic opportunities consistent with the Reconciliation Protocol Agreements. These take shape through planning and permitting procedures in the protected areas that are part of those agreements.

For marine protected areas:

  • Three out of nine organisations reporting on marine protected areas (33%) reported that agreements to ensure that Indigenous communities derive economic and social benefits from protected areas near, adjacent to or surrounding their communities were in place for some of their protected areas.
  • Two organisations responded that agreements were in place for their protected areas located in land claim settlement areas and where impact and benefit agreements had been signed. These were Parks Canada for their National Marine Conservation Areas, and Environment and Climate Change Canada for the marine portions that are associated with their terrestrial protected areas in Nunavut.
  • Three out of nine (33%) indicated that agreements were not in place for any of their protected areas.

The Tarium Niryutait Marine Protected Area established together by the Inuvialuit and Fisheries and Oceans Canada is cooperatively managed with the Fisheries Joint Management Committee. Through this process, the Inuvialuit are involved in the management and monitoring of the Marine Protected Area. They are involved in governance, and also manage certain ecological and socio-economic activities within the Marine Protected Area, such as subsistence harvesting, tourism and transportation activities.

Local community consultation in protected area management

Protected areas are not isolated entities. Their establishment and management have to be undertaken in consideration of various factors that can impact them including the social-economic context where in which they are located. As such, local community involvement in the establishment and management of protected areas will vary greatly depending on the type of protected areas targeted, along with the types of usage for the site or nearby the site. Consulting with a variety of stakeholders and including local communities can help address issues ranging from avoiding conflict, to negotiating collaborative arrangements or partnerships with local communities and groups.

For terrestrial areas:

  • Thirteen out of 15 organisations (87%) were either mandated by law or had a policy in place for consulting with communities located near or adjacent to terrestrial protected areas compared to 76% reported in 2011.
  • Eleven out of 15 (73%) had management plans that included specific consultation provisions with communities for certain protected areas.

The extent to which communities were consulted regarding management decisions for terrestrial protected areas varied greatly:

  • Six out of 15 organisations (40%) indicated that they occasionally consulted with local communities.
  • Seven out of 15 (47%) either infrequently held such consultations or only consulted with local communities for major management decisions.
  • Two out of 15 (13%) reported consulting on day-to-day management decisions (Nunavut and Northwest Territories).

For example, at the federal level, during the development of management plans for National Wildlife Areas and Migratory Bird Sanctuaries, Environment and Climate Change Canada consults with both local communities and the broader Canadian public. This is the minimum consultation undertaken, with more extensive consultations occurring at certain sites and with respect to certain issues.

At the provincial level, examples of consultation processes with local communities include Nova Scotia. Through the Wilderness Areas Protection Act, the Minister is required to consult the public on area designations and management plans and, as a matter of policy, communities may be additionally consulted on particularly controversial issues. Similarly, in Prince Edward Island, public consultation is undertaken before establishing or delisting protected areas on Publicly Owned Lands and public consultation is undertaken on new management plans for Publicly Owned Lands. In Saskatchewan, the ministry and site management teams have been consulting with land use planning and local park advisory groups for major management decisions. These groups include stakeholders, local communities, Indigenous communities and representatives of provincial non-profit organisations who have an interest in the protected area.

For marine protected areas:

  • Seven out of nine organisations (78%) with existing marine protected areas had consultation provisions embedded either in law or policy.
  • Five out of nine (56%) had management plans that included specific consultations with communities.
  • Four out of nine (44%) were consulting occasionally while the remaining organisations reported holding infrequent consultations whether on major management decisions or not.

In Manitoba, provincial policy requires a review of all new protected areas with Indigenous Peoples, local communities, mining, petroleum and hydroelectric sectors and broader stakeholder groups involved in selected sites.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada consults with local communities throughout the marine protected area establishment and management process. However, the extent to which this occurs varies according to the specific location of the marine protected area. Potential coastal sites require more community involvement and may lead to having community representatives on the marine protected area Advisory Committee.

Engagement of resource sectors in protected area planning and management

Engaging industries from resource sectors remains an important and recommended element in the design, planning, establishment and management of both terrestrial and marine protected areas in Canada for the majority of both terrestrial protected area organisations (13 out of 15) and by marine protected area organisations (eight out of nine).

For terrestrial protected areas and the 13 organisations engaging with resources sectors:

  • Four main consultation mechanisms were used for engaging industries:
    • All organisations (13 out of 13) used public consultation processes
    • Eleven out of 13 (85%) used targeted or specific consultations on protected areas
    • Ten out of 13 (77%) consulted as part of land-use planning processes
    • Eight out of 13 (62%) via participation on advisory bodies
  • Ten out of 13 organisations(77%) indicated having ongoing relationships with industries associated with natural resource sectors.
  • Six out of 13 (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Northwest Territories, Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan) reported that they have specifically been engaging resource sectors on land rights withdrawals for establishing terrestrial or freshwater protected areas.

In British Columbia, resource industries have been represented at all land use planning tables where protected area recommendations were developed. In some cases, resource industries have voluntarily relinquished rights to develop resources in order for protected areas to be established.

Manitoba is the only province that reported having an agreement in place with resource industries for the management of lands adjacent to protected areas; Manitoba Hydro takes care to ensure that Manitoba’s protected areas are given priority in their efforts to avoid or to minimize potential adverse environmental effects that may be associated with their development activity near protected areas.

For marine protected areas and the eight organisations engaging with resources sectors:

  • As was the case for terrestrial protected areas, four types of consultations have been widely used including:
    • Public consultation processes (100% or all eight organisations)
    • Targeted or specific consultations on protected areas (75%)
    • As part of land-use planning processes (50%)
    • Through sitting on advisory bodies (25%)
  • Three out of eight organisations (British Columbia, Manitoba and Fisheries and Oceans Canada) reporte ongoing relationships in place with relevant resource sectors
  • Two our of eight (British Columbia and Manitoba) also reported having engaged in specific rights withdrawals to enable the establishment of marine protected areas.

Engagement of non-government bodies or citizen groups

All aspects of civil society continue to play a role in the creation and expansion of protected areas. Local ‘friends-of’ organisations manage on-site educational programs and lead citizen-science initiatives with the support from government organisations. Provincial and national non-government organisations advocate for, and provide guidance and recommendations on protected areas from identification of candidate sites, to establishment, through to management of protected areas. The level of engagement of civil society in protected areas is a reflection of the relevance of protected areas to Canadians.

For terrestrial protected areas:

  • Ten out of 15 organisations (67%) reported partnering with non-government bodies or citizen groups on alternate governance.

In Alberta, the Eagle Point-Blue Rapids Parks Council is a non-profit organization that co-manages Eagle Point Provincial Park and Blue Rapids Provincial Recreation Area through a memorandum of understanding with the Government of Alberta. Another example is the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation, a partnership with the Government of Alberta that supports the operations and development of Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park. The foundation focuses on education, research, recreation and stewardship within the park and while the government retains final decision making power, these decisions are made in a highly collaborative environment.

Some organisations responsible for protected areas partner with larger non-governmental organisations such The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society such as in the case of the Government of Northwest Territories.

Private landowners can also play a crucial role. In Manitoba for example, under the Conservation Agreement Act, private landowners can put a legally binding easement on their land to ensure that future owners maintain the natural features of the land. Similarly, private landowners can have their land designated as natural areas under the provincial legislation to that effect in Prince Edward Island (Natural Areas Protection Act) and New Brunswick (Protected Natural Areas Act).

For marine protected areas:

  • Four out of nine organisations (44%) reported partnering with non-government bodies or citizen groups on alternate governance.

This includes the Government of Quebec, who is working in conjunction with the non-profit organization Parc Nature de Pointe-aux-Outardes, to develop a management plan for the Manicouagan aquatic reserve.

Environment and Climate Change Canada is also in the process of establishing a marine protected area and has proposed to operate Scott Islands, the first candidate marine National Wildlife Area, through an advisory committee and in close collaboration with local First Nations.

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